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March 30, 2020  Today, the ACLU of Iowa and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, on behalf of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, and along with the Emma Goldman Clinic, filed a lawsuit against Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and other state officials to ensure that patients can continue to access essential, time-sensitive surgical abortion services during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The lawsuit is in response to Gov. Reynolds’ Proclamation of Disaster Emergency for COVID-19 and her statement published in the Des Moines Register on Friday, March 27, 2020, taking the position that surgical abortion is prohibited under her Proclamation.  While health care providers across Iowa are working tirelessly to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and care for patients suffering from COVID-19, Gov. Reynolds is focused on advancing her political agenda and interfering in medical decisions that should be left to patients and their doctors. 

Experts, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, agree that abortion is an essential, time-sensitive procedure that cannot be delayed. The groups note that delaying this care could “profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.” Delays or additional barriers to care can make it more difficult or even impossible for patients to access safe, legal abortion.

The lawsuit, filed in Johnson County District Court, asks the court to block the Governor’s Proclamation as it applies to abortions.

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“A global pandemic is not an excuse to attack essential, time-sensitive medical procedures like abortion. Yet that’s exactly what anti-abortion politicians and activists are trying to do, instead of working together to ensure everyone has access to health care. These political distractions cost valuable time and resources that our state and federal officials cannot afford to waste. Abortion is essential and patients who need care cannot wait. This is what it’s come down to: court battles just so doctors and nurses can care for patients during a public health crisis. Anti-abortion politicians have gone too far.”

Statement from Sarah Stoesz, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood North Central States:

“To choose this moment-while we are in a global pandemic-to take on a political fight is not only misguided, it’s dangerous.  As a trusted member of Iowa’s health care community since 1934, Planned Parenthood is deeply committed to protecting public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. We put the health of our patients and communities at the forefront every single day.” 

Statement from Rita Bettis Austen, ACLU of Iowa legal director:

“Right now, the state needs leadership that lets us all work together to protect our health and the health of our families and communities. The state’s singling out of abortion in this manner during the public health crisis is profoundly harmful to Iowa women, and can’t be justified from a public health perspective.  Abortion is an essential, time-sensitive, and constitutionally protected medical procedure. This move follows the state's numerous prior efforts to ban abortion in Iowa and make abortion more difficult and costly to obtain, all of which, like this decision, have been completely unjustified medically and have been blocked by the courts as unconstitutional. This is the worst time for it to try again.”


Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives. 

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides, promotes, and protects reproductive and sexual health through health services, education, and advocacy. An affiliate of America’s most trusted provider of reproductive health care, PPHeartland is proud to offer a full range of high-quality services at health centers in Iowa and Nebraska. 

The ACLU of Iowa is a private, non-partisan organization that fights to advance civil liberties for all. It is the state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU prides itself in upholding everyone’s civil liberties, no matter who they are or what they believe. We work to assure the rights of all Iowans—from atheists to devout Christians, from labor unions to businesspeople and more—to make sure the constitutional rights of all are preserved. For more information, please go to www.aclu-ia.org.